–Dan Kelly, Attorney

I assume that most readers have heard that the universe of Internet domain names may be expanding next year.  Instead of being limited to a finite number of relatively mundane top-level domain extensions like “.com” and “.org,” ICANN is planning to allow for the registration of any string of characters to the right of the dot.  These plans have been in the works for a while, and just this week, ICANN released the latest version (version 3 for those keeping score at home) of the “Draft Applicant Guidebook.”  This version is publicly available here, and ICANN is taking comments on the contents of this draft through November 22, 2009.  Speak now or hold your peace (at least until the next draft comes out).

I have previously observed that the world of Internet domain names bears some semblance to the proverbial “Wild West.”  I have also expressed some doubts about the prudence of opening up the gTLD space.  At the risk of being Dr. No, I see a host of potential problems for trademark owners, based principally on current abuses.  Even so, the gTLD roll out process provides at least some opportunity for taking a broader view of the possibilities, both good and bad, and stakeholders should pay attention now and weigh in before it is too late.